Republicans Sought Algae Research Grants From Obama, Now They’re Attacking Him For It

Following President Obama’s “all-the-above” energy speech last Thursday, conservatives have ignored the speech and instead latched onto a single point about investing $14 million in algae-based biofuel research. “Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this [algae] fuel that we can grow right here in the United States,” Obama said.

Newt Gingrich said the president’s comments are “worthy of Leno or Letterman.” The same candidate who wants moon colonies during his presidency attacked the president for a “weird” technology both Republicans and their industry allies have endorsed.

Gingrich isn’t alone in the right-wing attempt to simplify the administration’s multifaceted energy proposals:

Newt Gingrich: “And maybe what we ought to do at is we ought to get t-shirts that say ‘You choose.’ Gingrich went on to suggest the slogans, ‘You have Newt: Drill here, Drill Now, Pay Less. You have Obama: Have Algae, Pay More, Be Weird.”

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
: I think the American people realize that a president who’s out there talking about algae when they’re having to choose between whether to buy groceries or to fill up the tank is the one who’s out of touch.

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer: Why build a keystone pipeline with real oil from Canada to put in real refineries and put in real existing cars when you can do algae? I think he is on to something. And I think this shows the vision, the hope and change he promised in 2008.

Rush Limbaugh: This guy is so out of his league, to throw out there, “I’m looking at algae.” It’s patently absurd. In a sane world this guy would be laughed out of office, not voted out.

By mocking the president, conservatives ignore a history of party leaders and their industry allies endorsing algae research.

Republicans from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) have requested Department of Energy grants for algae research. All three lawmakers wrote that algae investments would reduce America’s oil use. For instance, Johanns wrote that an algae biotechnology center “would develop technology to decrease our dependence on imported oil.”

Republican allies in the oil industry have also invested in algae, including No. 1 oil lobbyist ConocoPhillips and ExonMobil, which sunk $600 million in algae biofuel research.

On energy, the administration is doing far more than budgeting for biofuel research. The White House’s FY 2013 budget provides billions for R&D and manufacturing in clean energy technologies, while higher fuel economy standards will reduce U.S. oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels per day. Meanwhile, under Obama, domestic production of oil has reached record levels of quadruple the drilling rigs over the past three years.


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